The earth sang to me.
Bajadas, he sang, and
his peculiar lilting inflection
bore a trace of an accent
from somewhere out of Bogotá.
And then his voice would swell with vigor
and he’d exclaim, forcefully, buttes,
smashing too many phonemes
into one syllable.
And I could hear the individual strata
in his candor.
Or he’d fall silent, and his impassive,
would be punctuated by only
a thirsty gray-green
In the mountains
he sang of eras past.
Recalled the reign of ice over the land,
and launched into the staccato:
trough, horn, cirque, tarn, col, arête,
ambling and slicing along
in 6/8 time.
Sierra, he insisted, sierra nevada.
At Minaret Summit, he called me to prayer.
And though I’d never prayed before
I heeded the call
and bent my head.
We had to listen closely to the road.
To search, evaluate, and execute
as we traversed its noise and rumble
with our tire-tread stethoscope,
our interpreter who failed
the penny test.
the earth thrummed with the
radiant pulse of his own being,
his own constancy.
The wind through the windows
shimmered between breathy, expansive stillness
and some muted, far-off Gregorian chant.
The earth sang
and waited for us to respond.
And when we didn’t,
the earth continued to turn.
Brooks continued to babble.
St. Helens continued to sputter.
And if we could only sequence his “magma, igneous, sulfur,”
as we have codons,
we might understand where he hurt.
The chorus reached its crescendo;
he was singing from every orifice.
Yet when he sighed
and with boom—crash—
leveled three townships,
we couldn’t understand
that he needed